Birds do it… .

I spend an enormous amount of time pondering, researching, and implementing methods to make the buildings that we occupy beautiful and beneficial. It’s been my passion and the work of my adult life. Everyone wants to live and work in beautiful spaces, though to many it feels like an enormous challenge that’s not worth the effort. So I’m always thrilled when I find research that proves the power of nature, even if it’s not for humans, but our feathered friends. It is worth it and even small things make a difference.

Recently I came across an article describing how birds build their nests out of beneficial materials. These specifically selected natural materials boost growth and survival rates while they ward off pests and diseases. Starlings use aromatic plants, such as yarrow, whose substances build up the chicks’ immune systems while lowering their bacteria. Eagles use insect repelling plants, such as pine boughs, to build their nests, which lessen parasites and increase the number of eagles that fledge.

A starling gathering nesting materials. Photo © hedera.baltica / Flickr through a Creative Commons license

A starling gathering nesting materials. Photo © hedera.baltica / Flickr through a Creative Commons license

Now back to us humans! It certainly correlates that if we build our own nests homes out of beneficial natural materials, wouldn’t we be healthier? And as one of the lucky creatures able to feel joy, wouldn’t we be happier as well? To that goal, I give you my top 3 beauties with benefits that will clean your air, reduce toxins, balance humidity, and they’re pretty.

1…It is worth repeating! Start with plants, just one, then one in every room! Most of us aren’t planning to build a new home from scratch or undertake major remodeling. But all of us can afford a living, breathing, green plant. The psychological benefits of them directly connecting us to nature are undisputed. And all this is done while they filter the air. In fact, NASA did a study to determine which plants do the best job of removing indoor air pollutants in confined spaces, like say, a space station. Here’s a photographic summary of the plants NASA studied. There is a plant for every person on the planet, regardless of gardening ability or time. Click to choose yours from my top 5 easy to grow plants.

Blatant self promotion of my partner business, Global Gardens!

Blatant self promotion of my partner business, Global Gardens!

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2…It’s summer here in Michigan though that shouldn’t keep us away from wool. The structure of wool fibers is remarkable. Because of its insulating kinky fibers that trap air, wool feels cool in the summer and warm in the winter. That crazy quirky fiber also moderates moisture and balances the humidity of a space. It cleans the air by absorbing contaminants and binding them, forever, within its structure so you’ll never know they were there. And, yes, there’s more, it’s easy to clean because its scaly structure doesn’t allow soil and grime to penetrate!

Canopy wool rug by Angela Adams...swoon!

Canopy wool rug by Angela Adams…swoon!

white space3…Clay paint naturally cleans the air. It balances the overload of equipment (you know tablets, phones, TVs, laptops) through negative ions, just like those that are abundant in nature.  Pierce J. Howard, Ph.D., states that “negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain, resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness, and more mental energy. They may also protect against germs in the air, resulting in decreased irritation due to inhaling various particles that make you sneeze, cough, or have a throat irritation.”  Oh, and the static resistance of clay paint reduces the build-up of dust and allergens. Hmmmm, less house cleaning?

An artist’s studio enveloped in rich clay paint and designed by me!

white spaceWhen you’re making choices for your own nest, follow our feathered friends and go with nature. After all, birds do it…      For more beauties with benefits, follow my blog, twitter, and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Design Predictions for a New Year 2016

The New Year is here and while many like to look back, I look forward to the possibilities that lie ahead. It’s truly the best time to be alive, despite all the turmoil outside our doors and around every corner. There has never been more opportunity to achieve health, wealth, and happiness. Empowering our lives at home is the first step to become inherently happy and spread that basic need-fulfillment to others in our neighborhood and beyond. After all, we all share the basic desire for a comforting roof over our heads, food on our table, family and friends with whom to share, and health.

You know I don’t follow trends and I always say design for yourself…if you love it, then it must be right. On that note at the end of this post, I won’t be able to resist saying “buh bye” to a few things of which I’ve seen enough, or too much!

SIMPLIFY   More and more of us are evaluating our possessions and dreaming of downsizing, as is apparent in the popularity of tiny homes.  Yet mainstream culture continues to say that more stuff is the key to happiness. But we all know that new things bring a temporary satisfaction that’s often quickly replaced by guilt and emptiness.  While a home filled with only the items that you truly love is enlightening.

living room Victor Fretyan

Luxurious in light, volume, texture, and style, this minimally furnished room has it all.

This is not a fad! Clearing clutter and enlarging your room-to-live in the process is never going out of style and works for everyone, yes, everyone. There are a billion methods and books and guides to assist you. I suggest you implement tools that allow you to do this effectively and without panic. Taking on too much at one time will likely end in less than satisfying results and self-degradation. I personally try to stay on top of these things regularly and have found that a thorough room-by-room cleanse is the way to start. I’ll admit I have areas in my home that I’m still working to keep clear….junk drawer and receipts. Otherwise, I follow the take care of it immediately rule. This has become a very popular book for maintaining an organized home. I’ve used its methods on my junk drawer and it’s working!

NATURAL CONNECTION We’re all aware of the remarkable effects that proximity to nature has on our overall physical and spiritual well-being. Humans have an innate desire to be in contact with the outside world. After all, we’ve only recently, around 12,000 BCE, built structures for housing, compared to our million+ years of history as the humans we are now.  Erich Fromm, a German psychologist, coined the term “biophilia” to describe our urge to affiliate with other forms of life.

As we spend more and more time indoors, bringing nature inside is more important, and easier, than ever to fill that basic human need for intimacy with the outside world! Key elements that are the foundation for exquisite, empowered spaces are fresh air, light, texture, organic materials, color, and movement. These elements and others are easy to enlist to bring you the comforting benefits of nature. Find out how here.

ImaginEco air light texture

Ah, Mom Nature is ever inspiring…a few of my own photos representing air, light, texture, organic materials, color, and movement.

Adding natural touches is easy and affordable. Plants add color and clean the air and there’s a plant for every level of gardening ability. In the kitchen replace plastic utensils and containers with wood, stainless, and glass. Natural fragrances are right in your pantry waiting to be simmered in water on your stove. Cinnamon, orange, and clove are a magic combination. Natural materials for your floors, walls, counters, etc. provide an unsurpassed level of luxury and comfort through their appearance, their feel, and the added bonus of durability, low-maintenance, and even being anti-bacterial and air-cleaning. Check out my Beauties with Benefits to learn more.

Clay paint paired with wood and sparkly mica are natural beauties.

GET MOVING    An important and often overlooked element in our modern streamlined homes is movement. Imagine you’re outside and seated by a still pond. Even there you may feel a slight breeze, hear the clatter as squirrels race up a tree, witness a branch dipping under the weight of a tiny bird, and wish for a cloud to reveal the sun. For us to feel true comfort on a deep cellular and biological level, beyond that of just feeling warm and fed and happy with our wall color choice, our homes need movement in the play of light and shadow and contrast of scale and texture.

A sterile sleek neutral environment lacking in these natural attributes can actually cause anxiety. These spaces feel awkward, cold, and uninviting as they’re lacking anything naturally relatable. By adding layers of lighting, indirect, direct, and ambient, we begin to mimic nature’s depth, light, and shadow in our interiors. Wild spaces are composed of towering trees, billowing grasses, and delicate wildflowers. Combine large, small, and mid-size furnishings, always functional and beloved, to shape instinctively balanced and grounded spaces where we want to relax or entertain or care for our families. Texture is another necessary element for a home that inspires. Imagine you’re surrounded by only shiny hard surfaces. No matter the color it feels cold and awkward. Now add rich texture in warm wood floors, velvety cork walls, and thick cable knit fabrics. That cold room just became inviting and comforting!

Natural cork wallcovering with a splash of copper provides velvety texture, warmth, and subtle drama.

COLOR    This is the year to leave behind your color fears. Nature’s colors range from chilly whites to blazing hot reds. And even in the Arctic, there’s an amazing range of color. It is unnatural for us to be surrounded by a lifeless color scheme. And remember those bland all-white spaces actually make us tense. Start with pops of color as dramatic changes can be daunting. Color changes the entire mood of a space and we’re not often ready for the powerful effects color can bring.  Allow yourself plenty of time to truly acclimate to the positive effect of color change. Inspiration and how to get started are here.

Nature’s color palettes never disappoint!

The exterior of our homes deserves color love too. When I’m out and about, I’m always shocked to see endless beige and grey neighborhoods. Especially where I live in west Michigan, where right now we could certainly use some color outside. Yet in places where it’s generally warm and sunny, there’s no shortage of color on the outside of buildings. If exterior work is on your list, consider adding color, if only just a splash on your front door.

BUH BYE!    Let me repeat, if you love it, it’s perfect.  Trends don’t matter as long as you’re happy, in fact, avoid trends at all costs. Your home should reflect your personality, not be just like your neighbors home. And last but certainly not least, a few things that I won’t miss if I don’t see them again. All beige homes with black roofs. Front doors that are hidden by ancient shrubbery. Chevron…Window valances…best left to grand estates with 20 foot high ceilings and ornate detailing. Accent walls…demand all the attention in a room and usually create an imbalance.

In this New Year, I wish for you nature outside your window and shelter that inspires. What are you home design goals for 2016? Be sure to follow my blog, twitter, and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Make Your Home Your Get-Away

It’s that time of year when the hustle and bustle can truly overwhelm. Try these tips to make your home welcoming for guests and a sanctuary for you. Happy Holidays from me and ImaginEco Design.

Denise

ImaginEco Design Blog

I do a lot of writing about resorts and retreats and modern getaways.  And over the holiday weekend I was pondering why our homes, where we spend most every night, can’t be a daily getaway. Shouldn’t our homes make us feel like we’ve just arrived at a resort? Don’t you love a retreat and how you feel when you arrive? Or better yet, how fabulous you feel after a few days there! Those qualities can be brought in to your very own home and the benefits as well. Leave your worries at the door. Feel pampered in the comfort. Shake off all distractions. Allow yourself to relax.

stylish shoe organization Step 1. Clear all the clutter. Have you noticed how the best hotels, resorts, and spas are completely free of clutter. They have all the amenities you could ever wish for, yet they’re discreet. In your home, create concealed organization for mail, your…

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Not to be missed fall home tips!

Ah, fall is officially here in Michigan and right on cue there’s a chill in the air. While the sun is still shining, let’s get ready for the upcoming cold. Check these off of your home care list and stay warm and dry this winter.

First call your HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning) contractor to check and tune up your furnace, heat pump, or boiler for the heating season ahead. It’s a minimal cost that will prevent you from being caught in the cold with your furnace down. You can find a contractor to perform this work here. You’ll save time, money, and headaches by having the equipment tested for optimal performance and the prevention of carbon monoxide leaks.

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Make the most of the heating in your home by insuring your ceiling fan is turning the proper way. When the heat is on, your ceiling fan blades should rotate clockwise. This keeps the warm air circulating and not resting near the ceiling. Change the blade direction by flipping the switch located on the fan housing, where the blades rest.  

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It’s time to check the seal around your windows and doors. Sealing gaps can save you 10-15% on your energy bills. That’s money in your pocket and a warmer, cozier home!  On your home’s exterior, use silicone caulk to fill in gaps between window and door frames and siding.  Add weather stripping around doors to eliminate gaps. Old windows that can’t be replaced?  Check the glazing compound that holds the glass in place and seals the window and replace as necessary.  On the inside of your home, use rope caulk to eliminate gaps between window sashes and frames. Add foam gaskets around exterior wall outlet plates. Heck, even those silly door snakes can keep out cold drafts.

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Save time, money, and headaches by preventing ice dams on your home this year by taking these 5 steps.  Find detailed information here.

1. Seal     2. Insulate    3. Ventilate    4. Aerate   5. Pressurize

ice dams

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Save up to 20% on your heating and cooling costs by installing a programmable thermostat. The Nest makes your life easy in so many ways. It learns how you live and the temperatures you like. You can set it with your phone when you’re away and it even monitors extreme temps or furnace trouble and alerts you via phone.

nest t stat

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Check your roof for loose or missing shingles. Repair and replace as necessary.

Check your siding for peeling paint. Scrape, prime, and repaint to maintain the protective paint film.

Inspect your fireplace chimney, flue, and firebox.

After the leaves have fallen, clean your gutters. Inspect the joints and tighten loose brackets.

Remove window air conditioners and store. Clean and cover ground units.

Share this with your friends, check these items off of your list, then get outside and enjoy the fall colors. Be sure to follow my blog, twitter, and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Keep your home naturally pest free.

My home is in a woodland in western Michigan. It’s full of wondrous life in every season. The natural beauty of flora and fauna does come with a few challenges that keep me aware of the delicate balance of this complex system. In my work and my daily life, I try to live in ways that maintain that equilibrium. Delicate fragrant wildflowers, nesting feathered friends, and mating butterflies spring to life after winter’s long cold nap. Of course, they all require those pesky-when-they’re-in-my-house insects. So after 10+ years in my woodland home, I’ve developed natural, inexpensive, and effective methods to keep the bugs out and alive!  After all, they are here for a reason, but I do not enjoy ants on my desk!  Try this super easy to mix up, works every time, household insect repellent.

Gather your three ingredients, that’s right, just three!

3 citrus fruits – lemons or limes, or a combination

3 garlic cloves

water

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Chop citrus fruits in half and drop in to your blender vessel. Add the garlic cloves, skins and all. Fill the vessel with tap water. Pulse until well chopped and blended.

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Next pour in to your largest pitcher and stir in additional water to fill. Take the mixture outside and drizzle it close to but not touching your home’s foundation. Shake or stir it occasionally as the mixture may settle.  Be careful not to pour the acidic mix on your home, siding, or decking. I have a gravel maintenance strip around my home so it’s a breeze.

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Some years we’ve had an unbearable amount of carpenter ants and the occasional spider in our home in the spring. This year there have been less than 20 as opposed to hundreds!  I’m certain the reduction is due to many factors, but I’m counting my two applications of this inexpensive, non-toxic, DIY insect repellent as the top reason. So get out there and draw a lemony line that bugs won’t cross. Keep them away and alive! Be sure to follow my blog, twitter, and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Let’s get personal…and healthy!

If you know me at all, personally or from my work, you’re well aware that I’m on a mission to create spaces that empower our lives. Creating beautiful, healthy, colorful, nurturing places is the reason that I get up every single day. I share all of my tips and tricks on my website and facebook page for you to begin this journey with me. It’s important to rid your home of toxic products and equally important to keep those nasties out of and off your body. Today I want to share how I take care of myself with naturally remarkably personal care products. Yes, I do make all of these and have for several years. There’s a wonderful comfort in knowing exactly what’s in my shampoo, face lotion, and other things that I apply every single day. It’s also a delight when I run out of something and I just head to my kitchen to quickly make what I need. Oh, and the cost savings is nice too!

Here’s how I make my own lotion which I use on my face and body. I even use a dab on my dried hair for a final shine and control. Used regularly your skin will be soft and moist. Of course, it’s a perfect lip cream.

Gather your four ingredients. That’s right, just four!

1 cup organic coconut oil

1/2 cup organic olive oil

1/4 cup beeswax, shaved

10 drops organic essential oil

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Place the beeswax, coconut oil, and olive oil in a small sauce pan. Melt over very low heat, stirring gently to combine.  When melted, turn off the heat, add the essential oil, and stir to combine. Adjust the amount of essential oil based on the type you’ve chosen.  I use lemon as it has skin brightening qualities and 10 drops is perfect for the benefits and a light fragrance. Jasmine and lilac oils are very strong and you’ll need only a few drops.  You can always add more essential oil, but you can’t remove it!

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Let the mixture cool for a few minutes. Stir again and pour in to clean, wide-mouth glass jars. Cover loosely and allow to cool completely.

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After cooling completely, your new multi-purpose lotion is ready to use. I also keep a small jar in my car’s glove compartment. This mixture will liquefy on very hot days. You can make it more creamy by adding additional beeswax. It’s easy to modify the recipe to suit your personal preferences.

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Here’s a recipe card that you can save and share with your friends. Make them a small jar of lotion and print the recipe for them to use and pass along.

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Here are four more DIY healthy and, may I add, inexpensive, fabulous personal care products that I’ve been making and using for years. Give them a try too!

It’s your turn to empower your life! Take control of your house and your physical home. Be sure to follow my blog, twitter, and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Warm up your Home without Breaking the Bank

It’s bitter cold here in Michigan now and I’m using all my tricks to stay warm in my home and home office. Of course, I want to save time, money, and the planet as much as you do. And I’m not going to take on any projects that require I work outside.  Try my tips that work every time and keep you inside!  Many of them cost nothing and the initial cost of others can be quickly repaid in energy savings and personal comfort.  Let’s start with no-cost and work up!

Switch your ceiling fan blades to rotate clockwise. This pushes warm air down to where you can enjoy it. Keep the fan on low so that it’s moving the warm air down without creating a nor’easter!

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Close the door on rooms that you rarely use. I do this in my own home. I close the guest room register nearly all of the way and keep the door shut. Our mechanical room door is left open just enough for the cat to access her litter box. Reduce your overall heating load by decreasing the area that requires heat, and maybe bump the temp up just a notch!

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Carlos Delgado ArchitectKeep heat vents and radiators clear. Allow the heat to flow freely by moving furniture and draperies away from the heat source. For forced air floor registers, purchase inexpensive air deflectors from your local hardware store. They redirect heated air that’s headed for the ceiling in to the room.  Install radiator deflectors to reflect heat in to your spaces and away from walls.

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Install outlet insulators on the switches and power outlets of exterior walls. These pre-cut foam gaskets are available at all home improvement centers. And they’re super inexpensive. They have made a big difference in my home, though they don’t seal the devices completely. Add the baby-proof outlet covers to fill unused outlets.

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Add weather stripping at leaky doors and windows. Weather stripping is an inexpensive way to greatly reduce air infiltration. It cannot compete with a well insulated building envelope with highly efficient windows, though the reality is that budget and weather may prohibit perfecting every building. Easy, affordable, and effective solutions increase your comfort, save money, and energy. In other words, every little bit helps! Check out this helpful guide on the best weather stripping types and where to use them.white space

Hoya bellaOur personal comfort is based on temperature and humidity, and many other factors that we’ll discuss in other posts!  In the winter, when the heat is on, moisture levels are reduced to a point of discomfort. Even when you have a humidifier on your furnace, as I do, and it can’t seem to keep up.  Adding plants to every room naturally increases our comfort by significantly increasing the relative humidity in rooms. Plus, plants are lush and lovely, they clean the air, and reduce dust!  Click here for my list of easy to grow plants.

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Pebbles rug by Piodao Group

Take the chill off bare floors by adding rugs, and wool rugs are fabulous for so many reasons. Because of the naturally insulating qualities of the fibers, wool feels toasty warm in the winter. It feels cool in the summer, if you can think that far ahead!  Wool fibers also clean the air and reduce allergens. On top of that they’re naturally stain resistant.

Tell me your secrets for staying warm in your home.  Share with your friends to keep them cozy, then follow my blog and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise